Thursday, March 10, 2011

Butterflies and Watermelon Wine

Last night at dinner we were talking about inebriation, the potency of 5oz of wine versus 12 oz of beer.  From there we talked about the bears here in Montana getting inebriated from eating fermented grain. 

Grain falls off the train as it goes along the tracks.  From time to time a train car may over turn and lose its load.   Then with the rain, snow, and heat it ferments.  Many animals are drawn to the impromptu bar.  Bears are especially fond of the ingredients that make a good brew.

Once they find such an oasis, they will return time after time for this delectable mash.  Always hoping that this magic elixir will manifest again.  You have the picture.  Bears are unpredictable at the best of times. Now imagine one that is a surly drunk.  Not so good.

I remember one fall day going to a college class and being run into by a low flying bird.  There were several of them that were dining on berries that had fallen to the ground.  As I watched them I noticed that they were having trouble with their aerial acrobatic display.

I still hadn’t grasped the total picture until one of the birds was weaving back and forth on the sidewalk. His eyes were glassy and out of focus.   At first I thought it was injured.  Then coming closer, I caught a whiff of the over ripe berries.  The bird was tipsy!

My Mother was an enthusiastic gardener and kept a compost pile in the back corner of her garden.  After eating several watermelons that summer, she put the rinds on top of the compost pile.  We were enjoying a real warm spell that summer.

One afternoon, I went to get clothes off the clothesline.  I discovered a kaleidoscope of blue and black butterflies on the ground swarming over a fallen watermelon rind.  As I approached for a closer look, I feared they would quickly take flight.

I was wrong.  None of them flew away.  These small beings were having a hard time getting air-born.  On closer observation I noticed many had their proboscis extended and were sipping the watermelon juice. I continued my surveillance. Butterflies were staggering and falling down.  They weren’t sipping juice.  They were inebriated!

I often remember that long ago day, when butterflies drank watermelon wine.


  1. Your post is a great story about when nature collides with itself--and with what Man Hath Wrought.

    Your last line reminds me of Bradbury's book of a similar title (Dandelion Wine) and which is one of my favorites.

    Thanks for the lovely imagery on both counts.

    Elizabeth E.

  2. I loved your language in your piece especially "impromtu bar". Being a nature lover, I couldn't wait to get through the piece and then reread it slowly...drinking it all in. Thank you for sharing.

  3. You know, I had never thought about animals and fermented fruit. I like this post, it gave me a chuckle to start my morning.

  4. I loved the evolution of this slice from dinner conversation to memory.

  5. The butterfly incident left a powerful memory. I watched them for a long time, they were so amazing. It was the only time I ever saw that kind of butterflies here in Montana. I searched the other day and they might have been Blue Morphos.

    I am really enjoying writing SOLs it is great getting to know other bloggers better.

  6. Ha! I have never read anything like that before. Wow, nature drinks.
    Great one Ruth,

  7. What interesting facts one learns through slices! I wonder, do the animals then have a hangover the next day? If so, I would not want to meet that bear! Loved the way your writing moved through this piece. Great post!

  8. A friend shared with me that there are some added dangers for the bears. Drinking on the railroad tracks is a potentially fatal place to drink. Many bears have been injured or killed. The railroad tries to clean up areas of spills to lessen likely-hood of these encounters.

  9. You sure kept my interest! I loved this piece. Who would have thought that animals would get drunk, especially butterflies. I didn't think they would drink it. A cute story. Hope they didn't have bad after affects. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I have never seen blue and black butterflies, here in Montana. I would love to see some again.

  11. This was beautifully written, full of those little stories that draw the reader in & keep us going. Your short & long sentences, & funny moments of 'clarity' (The bird was tipsy!) are great. I imagine you could fill an entire book of animal stories about being 'tipsy'.

  12. I read your marvelous post and have visions of staggering bears, birds and butterflies. Watermelon that!

  13. I always love laughing at the bees when they get drunk here on all the plums that fall so quickly and rot in the grass.

  14. It never ceases to amaze how deep and rich short moments of time can be.


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